In July, Spurgeons took 37 of our Young Carers to the Young Carers Festival at Fairthorne Manor. The annual festival is a huge event, with over 850 young carers from around the country coming together for a weekend of activities and fun. It provides a great opportunity for the young people to be away from the stress and responsibility of the caring role – giving them time to focus on themselves.
Census data identifies 173,000 young carers in the UK (2016), though BBC research projects up to 700,000, or 3 times as many, have caring needs that are yet to be identified. These young people are caring for a family member with an illness or disability. They have to grow up too fast – the need to balance their caring responsibilities with school leaves them little time to have fun with their friends.
Spurgeons supports around 800 young people through our Young Carers support hubs in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. While receiving referrals for carers as young as 5-years-old.
Providing one-to-one support, group sessions, mentoring and time out through trips and activities is vital to the young carers we support and their families. The Young Carers festival is the biggest gathering of young carers in the world and is looked forward to by support workers and young carers alike.
Many of the young carers who go, begin the trip with anxiety and fear, then come out of their shells to enjoy the experience.
At the start of this year’s festival, one young person didn’t want to talk to anyone or share a tent, but by the end, she had made friends with several of the others and was inseparable from one of them, she moved from her single tent into the shared tent, they all did a karaoke song together in front of 80 people and had so much fun on the fairground rides and at the silent disco together.
And another young man, who has learning needs and extreme anxiety if separated from others, felt comfortable enough to explore the campsite without a member of staff once he had settled in. He made new friends, not just from the Spurgeons group but from other groups too. He embraced all of the activities, both those during the day and those in the evening and he and his new friends were having so much fun they were the last back at the campsite for their curfew. There were no signs of anxiety at all!
Our Young Carers Service Lead, Angie Jones added her thoughts and experience of the trip:
“Young Carers are never really free from their caring role, when they are at school they can be worrying about parents or siblings, they quite often have to cancel plans or go home early, the festival gives them the time and space to be young people first, to have fun and most importantly freedom for a little while from their caring responsibilities. Until you go to the festival you really cannot grasp just how important it is for so many young people, it really can be a life-changing experience.”
The Children’s Society, which organises the festival every year, has put together a video that captures the spirit of this year’s festival!
About Spurgeons Young Carers Services:
Spurgeons delivers support to young people up to the age of 18 who are caring for a family member with an illness or disability in the West Midlands through our Birmingham Young Carers and Wolverhampton Young Carers services.
The Birmingham Young Carers service was a finalist in two categories at the 2019 Children and Young People Now Awards in the PSHE Education Award and the Young Carers Award for its particular focus on supporting young carers looking after a parent with a drug or alcohol dependency.
To learn more about our work with Young Carers, click here.